Change happened fast in the late 1800's. While "progress" was great for some, it also spelled the end of hundred of years of Native American tradition. It was hard to believe that the American West and East were part of the same country. The West was primarily an area of homestead farmers, miners, and cattle ranchers. While Easterners tried to make their way farther and farther west with the growth of industry and railways, Native Americans desperately clung to the hopes of maintaining their territory and tribal traditions.
Conflict between whites settlers and Native Americans had been around since the earliest settlements. Now that industry was expanding so rapidly, the fight for land brought a whole new face to these disagreements. The need for land, as well as the feeling of superiority to the Native Americans were the driving forces behind most of the policies derived in the 1870's and 1880's. The transcontinental railroad became the catalyst for much of the new conflict. Before its completion, the only Americans to venture westward had done so on horseback or covered wagon. Now thousands more could move across the much more quickly and a much less cost. In addition, what settlers also wanted the land to farm. Native Americans were increasingly pushed off their lands and forced onto reservations. The Indian Removal Act also contributed to this. At the beginning of the 1830s, Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. This was land that their ancestors had occupied and cultivated for generations. After this act came into effect, very few natives remained anywhere in the southeastern United States. They were pushed out West. Working on behalf of white settlers who wanted to grow cotton on the Indians' land, the federal government forced them to walk thousands of miles to a designated "Indian territory" across the Mississippi River.